- 09.02.2021 Philanthropic Impact on PCA - Tampa Bay
Co-written with Margie Foster-Cunningham, who is entering her 37th season as head coach of the George Washington University Gymnastics Team and who coached Kristie Helfrich.
As the sun sets on yet another inspiring Olympic Games, it’s time to reflect on the breakout performances (Molly Seidel, Athing Mu), incredible success/longevity in sport (Alison Felix, Sue Bird & Katie Ledecky), touching acts of sportsmanship (G. Tamberi & M. Barshim) and unexpected challenges (Simone Biles) of these amazing athletes. As a former gymnast and now a parent of athletes, the plight of Simone has touched me deeply. The Olympics is a time for gymnastics to shine on the world’s stage, however, the spotlight shifted from athletic prowess/dominance to the importance of the overall well-being of athletes. This made me think about the unique needs of athletes – physical, mental, and emotional – and the role that coaches, parents, and teammates play in helping achieve the necessary balance to compete at the highest level.
As a parent do I have the right approach? Am I doing enough? Or too much? How can I help my kids navigate the inevitable highs and lows and intense pressure to perform without losing the joy of the sport? I maintain a tremendous friendship with my collegiate gymnastics coach, Margie Foster-Cunningham, who is entering her 37th season as head coach of the George Washington University Team so I decided to get her take on how to use this as a learning experience in supporting athletes. Out of our animated conversation emerged some themes worth sharing:
Top coaches and athletes train youth sports parents to focus on helping their children process the life lessons uniquely available through sports. This highly interactive workshop provides specific tips and techniques for parents to use in talking with their children on game day, developing a productive parent – coach relationship, and becoming effective and positive supporters in the stands.
Nelson Mandela said, “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Sports allow athletes the opportunity to practice the art of the comeback. Recovering from challenges along the way enables athletes to develop coping skills and the resilience necessary to become strong, future leaders with positive mindsets. Simone Biles’ bronze medal performance on the balance beam was the ultimate comeback. Behind this achievement was countless hours of practice, incredible fortitude, and unmatched strength coupled with the amazingly positive support of her coach, family, teammates, and loved ones.
Positive parents and coaches guide growth through sport. Your role as parent is both simple and complex – it’s a fine art, a skill. Like any skill, it requires lots of practice, constant refinement, and ongoing development. Don’t waste your “windshield time”, it truly is a gift so use it wisely and like your athlete – keep practicing!